BEST PRACTICES FOR STANDARDS-BASED GRADING

 
BEST PRACTICES FOR STANDARDS-BASED GRADING
BEST PRACTICES FOR
STANDARDS-BASED GRADING

October 2015

        In the following report, Hanover Research discusses best
        practices for implementing standards-based grading systems
        and examines the impact of these systems on student
        performance.

                                                                     www.hanoverresearch.com
Hanover Research | October 2015

          TABLE OF CONTENTS
          Executive Summary and Key Findings ............................................................................... 3
             INTRODUCTION ...........................................................................................................................3
             KEY FINDINGS .............................................................................................................................3
          Section I: Literature Review ............................................................................................. 5
             LITERATURE ON STANDARDS-BASED GRADING ..................................................................................5
             DISTRICT- AND SCHOOL-LEVEL FINDINGS..........................................................................................6
          Section II: Best Practices .................................................................................................. 8
             ESTABLISHING EVALUATION STANDARDS ..........................................................................................8
                Establishing Learning Targets ..........................................................................................11
             DEVELOPING AND SELECTING ASSESSMENTS ...................................................................................11
                Developing Formative Assessments ................................................................................13
                Developing Summative Assessments ..............................................................................14
                Developing Reassessments ..............................................................................................14
                Assessing Late Submission of Student Work ...................................................................15
             TRANSLATING STANDARDS-BASED EVALUATIONS INTO LETTER GRADES ................................................16
             PROVIDING DIFFERENTIATED TEACHING IN STANDARDS-BASED CLASSROOMS ........................................20
             PROMOTING STAKEHOLDER BUY-IN AND ENGAGEMENT ....................................................................20

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Hanover Research | October 2015

          EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND KEY FINDINGS
          INTRODUCTION
          This report discusses research and best practices for implementing standards-based grading
          systems. In broad terms, standards-based grading establishes a structure in which teachers
          conduct repetitive holistic assessments of student knowledge and skills to describe student
          mastery of specific content. This structure contrasts with traditional grading systems that
          reflect student performance across time and which may include non-academic factors, such
          as student behavior, that are not a direct reflection of content mastery. Advocates for
          standards-based grading believe that the system allows students to focus on knowledge and
          skill development. However, given that this system requires teachers, students, and parents
          to alter their view of grading substantially, districts must approach the transition carefully to
          ensure the new system achieves the intended outcomes.

          This report explores this topic in two sections:
                 Section I: Literature Review discusses the literature on standards-based grading and
                  the impact of this system on student achievement.
                 Section II: Best Practices discusses recommendations for implementing standards-
                  based grading, including assessment, assigning formal grades, and promoting
                  stakeholder engagement.

          KEY FINDINGS
                 Standards-based grading aims to improve student outcomes by changing the way
                  teachers communicate and students demonstrate progress. Standards-based
                  grading provides students, teachers, and parents with specific, actionable
                  information regarding student mastery of specific concepts. Furthermore, the
                  flexible timeframes for completing tasks and the opportunities to relearn material
                  help ensure that students learn foundational concepts before progressing to new
                  content.
                 Districts should provide teachers and parents with information about standards-
                  based grading early in the transition process. Accounts of the Omaha Public
                  School’s adoption of a standards-based grading system note that professional
                  development was critical for the shift to standards-based grading. The district also
                  provided parents with a clear explanation of the system to dispel any
                  misconceptions.
                 By assigning purposeful tasks and offering regular encouragement, teachers can
                  support task completion. Helping students recognize how homework completion
                  affects learning enables teachers to encourage students to complete all assigned
                  work. Through regular discussions regarding anticipated task deadlines, teachers can
                  also help students make reasonable plans for their progress.

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                Many districts translate standards-based grades to traditional grades for the
                 purpose of providing a grade on a report card. Often, districts use a four-point scale
                 that corresponds with student mastery of a concept or skill: a score of “0”
                 represents no mastery, a “4.0” score represents the highest level of mastery, and
                 scores along this range represent varying levels of mastery. Teachers can translate
                 these standards-based grades to traditional grades using appropriate intervals.

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Hanover Research | October 2015

          SECTION I: LITERATURE REVIEW
          This section provides an overview of the literature on standards-based grading. Hanover
          Research used ProQuest, EBSCOhost, ERIC, and Google Scholar to locate these articles; we
          note, however, that the body of evidence studying standards-based grading is somewhat
          limited at this time as the concept is still relatively young.

          LITERATURE ON STANDARDS-BASED GRADING
          Academic, peer-reviewed literature on standards-based grading focuses heavily on the core
          tenets of this system and highlights its relative benefit in promoting and assessing student
          learning. As Robert Marzano and Tammy Heflebower explain in Educational Leadership, the
          system’s core concept is that student grades should accurately reflect achievement levels.
          Accordingly, in a standards-based grading framework, students do not receive an overall
          grade that averages their work performance overtime, and that may also include non-
          academic factors, such as behavior. Instead, they receive multiple grades that reflect their
          proficiency relative to specific expectations. Teachers also encourage students to practice a
          concept or skill until they can demonstrate full mastery of each standard.1

          Experts supporting the shift toward standards-based grading assert that the grading system
          “separates and elevates the advent of learning from points and numbers in a gradebook,
          lending new inspiration to the ages-old pursuit of education.”2 Advocates also note that the
          system improves student achievement by establishing clear learning targets,
          accommodating different learning styles, and giving students feedback during the course of
          instruction.3 Likewise, this system increases fairness in grading by having all students,
          regardless of teacher, work toward common goals in the same course, thereby decreasing
          reliance on subjective evaluation criteria. 4 Finally, the system enhances communication
          between teachers, students, and parents by giving these stakeholders critical information
          about student learning goals and progress.5

          1
             Marzano, R. J. and T. Heflebower. “Grades That Show What Students Know: Best Practices Suggest Four
               Ways to make the Most of Standards-Based Grading and Reporting.” Educational Leadership,
               November 2011. P. 34 - 35.
               https://www.ocps.net/lc/southwest/mso/parents/Documents/Grades%20That%20Show%20What%2
               0Students%20Know.pdf
          2
            Iamarino, D. “The Benefits of Standards-Based Grading: A Critical Evaluation of Modern Grading
             Practices.” Current Issues in Education, 17:2, May 2014. p. 9.
             http://cie.asu.edu/ojs/index.php/cieatasu/article/download/1234/568
          3
           Ibid.
          4
            Proulx, C., and K. Spencer-May, and T. Westerberg. “Moving to Standards-Based Grading: Lessons from
            Omaha.” Principal Leadership, 13:4, December 2012. p. 31.
          https://meeting.nasbonline.org/public/Meeting/Attachments/DisplayAttachment.aspx?AttachmentID=99
               242
          5
            Ibid., p. 30.

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          Researchers and experts who promote standards-based grading have been critical of
          different components of traditional methods of grading. As Danielle Iamarino argues in
          Current Issues in Education,
                  Points-based grading is preoccupied with numbers, rather than communication.
                  Final grades are sourced from gradebook figures (points), and there is often no
                  comprehensive system in place to determine the integrity of the methods through
                  which those figures are collected. This makes it difficult to determine whether or
                  not the resulting final grades are accurate reflections of student proficiency levels.6

          At a more practical level, advocates argue that traditional methods make it difficult to
          properly weigh the different components of a grade. In a traditional grading framework,
          teachers must ensure that the final grade reflects a student’s ability to reach the objectives
          that they established at the beginning of the instructional period. Teachers must also award
          a single grade that provides an accurate measure of student performance relative to the
          difficulty of the learning tasks.7

          Experts also identify some challenges with standards-based grading systems, however. First,
          teachers and administrators must invest a significant amount of work and time to properly
          execute the system. Second, teachers must provide parents with additional support to help
          them understand the system and monitor student progress.8 Section II addresses best
          practices for gaining parent and teacher buy-in.

          DISTRICT- AND SCHOOL-LEVEL FINDINGS
          Studies examining the experience of districts that use standards-based grading systems
          have concluded that the structure supports student outcomes. An article discussing the
          experience of Omaha Public Schools (NE) notes a significant shift in the number of students
          receiving higher grades after the introduction of the new grading system. Specifically, the
          district analyzed the number of As through Fs for selected courses in the district’s high
          schools between 2009 and 2012 and found a significantly higher number of B and C grades
          and lower numbers of A, D, and F grades. While the district expected the number of D and F
          grades to decrease with the new system’s method of retake for assignments, the district
          attributes the lower number of A grades to the elimination extra credit assignments.9

          In 2006, instructional leaders in the North Spencer County School Corporation in Lincoln
          City, Indiana, examined the impact of a standards-based grading system on communication
          of learning and its alignment to achievement on state testing at their district. The study
          found evidence that the adoption of a standards-based grading system improved the
          correlation between ratings in the standards-based system and performance on state
          assessments. The North Spencer County School Corporation first developed a standards-

          6
            Iamarino, “The Benefits of Standards-Based Grading,” Op. cit.
          7
            Haptonstall, “An Analysis of the Correlation Between Standards-Based, Non-Standards-Based Grading
             Systems and Achievement,” Op. cit., p. 42.
          8
            Ibid., p. 41.
          9
            Proulx, Spencer-May and Westerberg. “Moving to Standards-Based Grading,” Op. cit., p. 33 – 34.

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          based system to more accurately communicate student learning and to focus instruction on
          state academic standards, as measured by the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational
          Progress Plus (ISTEP+). Then, the study examined the correlation of ISTEP+ scores to letter
          grades in the 2001-2002 academic year and to standards-based grading ratings in the 2004-
          2005 academic year. In the 2001-2002 academic year, 53 percent of students in grades
          three through six who earned an A or B failed the English and language arts section of the
          ISTEP+. After the district adopted a standards-based system in the 2004-2005 academic
          year, only 32 percent of students in grades three through seven who met or exceeded grade
          level standards failed the same portion of the ISTEP+. Findings were similar for math
          performance on the ISTEP+ and correlation with standards-based ratings.10

          An overview of the implementation of standards-based grading in Lincoln Elementary in St.
          Charles, Missouri, found that the performance of the school’s students on the 2013
          Missouri Assessment of Progress exam improved after the school adopted this system. The
          students’ mean scores on the mathematics and English sections of exam were higher than
          the district and state average even as the percentage of students receiving free and
          reduced-price lunch increased from 56.1 to 60.9 between 2009 and 2013. 11 These examples
          show how districts and schools can identify the potential benefits of these grading systems
          on students’ performance or the communication of learning progress to students.

          10
             Tassel, J. L., J. Kemp, Litkenhus, D., and M. Schriefer. “Progress Report Vs. Report Card—One District’s
              Challenge.” Agency for Instructional Technology, 2006. http://www.ait.net/technos/e-
              zine/articles/progress_report.php
          11
             Heflebower, T., J. K. Hoegh, and P. Warrick. “Except from A School Leader’s Guide to Standards-Based
             Grading.” Marzano Research Laboratories. p. 6 -7. http://pages.solution-
              tree.com/rs/solutiontree/images/46mee_SLGSBG_look-inside.pdf

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          SECTION II: BEST PRACTICES
          This section discusses best practices for adopting and maintaining standards-based grading.
          The first subsection discusses how to establish the evaluation standards that guide the
          grading process. The second subsection reviews the development and selection of
          assessments for tracking and evaluating student progress. The third subsection builds on
          this topic by discussing how to convert the rubrics used to measure student progress into
          traditional academic grades. The section concludes with an examination of best practices
          for promoting engagement among teachers, students, and parents.

          ESTABLISHING EVALUATION STANDARDS
          A successful standards-based grading framework should establish clear categories and
          learning targets that properly asses and track student knowledge. Experts at the Southern
          Regional Education Board recommend that teachers keep the following questions in mind
          when preparing evaluation criteria:
                    What do all of my students need to know?
                    What should all of my students be able to do to demonstrate they know?
                    What standards do I want to measure?
                    Which outcomes are not being assessed adequately?12

          A review of the standards-based grading system in Spokane Public Schools shows how
          school districts can address these questions in the development of their evaluation criteria.
          The school district uses a broad set of principles for establishing learning criteria and
          standards for its standards-based system (Figure 2.1).

                                Figure 2.1: Spokane Public Schools Principles of Grading
                     PRINCIPLE                                               DESCRIPTION
           Grades and Reports Should Be
             Based on Clearly Specified         All students in Spokane Public Schools, no matter their school, will
          Learning Goals and Performance          be graded using the same standards.
                    Standards
                Evidence Used for Grading       Students are assessed on what they are taught.
                     Should Be Valid            “There are no trick questions and no surprises.”
               Grading Should Be Based on       On a math assessment, students are graded on the math standards
               Established Criteria, Not on       assessed, not on arbitrary norms such as poor handwriting or
                    Arbitrary Norms               absent names on their paper.

          12
               Taken verbatim from: Moore, B. “Effective Grading Practices: 12 Fixes for Broken Grades.” Southern
                Regional Education
               Board. p. 63. http://www.tcdss.net/docs/B.%20Moore%20-
                %2012%20Fixes%20for%20Broken%20Grades.pdf

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Hanover Research | October 2015

                       PRINCIPLE                                              DESCRIPTION
                                                 Students are not graded as they are learning the information, but
                                                  after the learning has occurred.
               Not Everything Should be          Students need to have enough “practice” in order to be successful
                  Included in Grades              in the “game.”
                                                 “Practice” is learning time – formative, not graded – while “the
                                                  game” is summative and graded.
                Avoid Grading Based on           Grading should reflect student performance as of the end of the
                       Averages                   grading period, rather than across the grading period.
                                                 Students’ achievement should be the only aspect included in their
               Focus on Achievement and           grade.
                 Report Other Factors            Students’ math grades will reflect their math achievement.
                      Separately                  However, their work habits and responsibilities during math will be
                                                  reported separately.
                                           13
          Source: Spokane Public Schools

          In order to implement this rubric, the district uses an evaluation system with four levels of
          academic proficiency: “Beginning,” “Approaching,” “Meeting,” and “Above.” Figure 2.2
          describes each level in this system. As the categories demonstrate, each level focuses
          exclusively on a student’s capacity to master a concrete set of goals and learning standards.
          Each level’s evaluation criteria build in a consistent manner that allows students and
          teachers to understand the targets for reaching these levels.

          Figure 2.2: Spokane Public Schools Overview of Content Achievement Criteria for Grading
                        LEVEL                                                 DESCRIPTION
                                                 Students are beginning to identify concepts, develop vocabulary,
                                                  and/or use skills. They are unable to make connections among
                                                  ideas or extend the information.
                  Level 1: Beginning
                                                 While instructors may expect all students to perform at this level at
                                                  the beginning of instruction, subsequent practice should lead to
                                                  increased levels of performance.
                                                 The difference between a Level 1 and a Level 2 student is the ability
                                                  to demonstrate some understanding.

                 Level 2: Approaching
                                                 At Level 2, a student can correctly identify some concepts and/or
                                                  vocabulary, and/or use some skills.
                                                 Students at Level 2 cannot make connections among ideas or
                                                  demonstrate their learning without support.

          13
            Adapted from: “A Teacher’s Guide to Standards-Based Grading and Reporting.” Spokane Public Schools,
             April 2009. p. 5.
          http://www.spokaneschools.org/cms/lib/WA01000970/Centricity/Domain/3172/pdf/Elementary%20SBG
             R%20Handbook.pdf

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                           LEVEL                                                          DESCRIPTION
                                                         Level 3 represents students who are independently able to meet
                                                           the course’s core standards.

                    Level 3: Meeting
                                                         Students who are performing at Level 3 understand and use
                                                           concepts and/or vocabulary and/or skills independently.
                                                         These students understand not just the “what,” but can correctly
                                                           explain and/or demonstrate the “how” and “why.”
                                                         Level 4 represents students who can independently and
                                                           consistently demonstrate extensions of their knowledge.
                     Level 4: Above
                                                         Students can create analogies and/or find connections, integrating
                                                           areas of study.
                                               14
          Source: Spokane Public Schools

          In addition to these categories, the district also establishes separate criteria to provide
          parents with indicators of their child’s progress on work habits and social development.
          Figure 2.3 shows the criteria that appear in the district’s rubric. According to the district,
          separating learning evaluation from work habits allows teachers to communicate about a
          student’s work habits without distorting a student’s achievement in learning course
          content.15

                                    Figure 2.3: Spokane Public Schools Work Habits Criteria
                                                    WORK HABITS AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT CRITERIA
                                   3 = CONSISTENTLY 2 = SOMETIMES 1 = RARELY X = NO GRADES AT THIS TIME
                   Social Development            1 2 3                                     Work Habits
                                                                     Participation That Promotes
          Follows School and Classroom Rules                         Learning
                                                                     Conversation and Behavior are
          Accepts Responsibility for Actions                         focused on Task
                                                                     Works Cooperatively
          Solves Problems in Positive Ways                           Follows Directions
                                                                     Engages in Classroom Activity
          Solves Problems in Positive Ways
                                                                                                        Participation

                                                                                                                                          Participation

                                                                                                                                                                            Participation
                                                                                                                            Assignments

                                                                                                                                                              Assignments

                                                                                                                                                                                                Assignments
                                                                     Seeks Assistance When
          Responds Appropriately to Adults and                       Needed
          Students                                                   Completes Assignments
                                                                     Turns in Work on Time
                                                                     Quality Work
                                                                                                                        1                                 2                                 3
                                                                     Reading
                                                                     Writing
                                                                     Math
                                                                     Science
                                                                     Social Studies
                                                                     Fitness and Health
                                                                     Library
                                                                     Music
                                               16
          Source: Spokane Public Schools

          14
             Adapted from: Ibid., p. 9.
          15
             Ibid.
          16
             Adapted from: Ibid., p. 11.

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          ESTABLISHING LEARNING TARGETS
          Clear learning targets are a central component of standards-based grading systems.
          Educators from Omaha Public Schools found that developing proficiency scales – holistic
          rubrics that look at student learning goals – for each course’s learning goal and standard
          was an important part of the district’s adoption of a standards-based grading system.17 As
          three of the consultants and supervisors who were involved in this initiative wrote in
          Principal Leadership:
                   Proficiency scales are summative in nature and do not identify the minute details
                   commonly found in an analytical rubric. Instead they characterize the knowledge
                   and skills that students need to have and be able to do as basic, proficient, and
                   advanced. Many teachers had never collectively worked through what was to be
                   taught and what success looks like, unit by unit, and they found the process
                   meaningful.18

          In order to maximize the benefits of using these learning targets, districts and schools
          should use representative teams of master teachers to develop rubrics with feedback from
          colleagues, reduce the number of target concepts to help teachers focus on tracking
          consistent growth in specific areas, and pare down curricula to help teachers teach and
          reteach core material. As the authors explained, “this ‘less is more’ approach has increased
          student learning and trend scores.”19

          DEVELOPING AND SELECTING ASSESSMENTS
          In addition to developing evaluation criteria and learning targets, teachers must also
          develop or select evaluation tools for tracking and measuring student progress. These
          assessments include formative assessments, which track student progress during the
          course, and summative assessments, which teachers administer at the end of the course.

          At a broad level, the Southern Regional Education Board recommends that teachers use the
          following principles to guide assessment selection:
                  Use summative assessments to frame performance goals as desirable outcomes.
                  Show students criteria in advance to help them understand these standards.
                  Assess students before beginning the instruction period.
                  Offer students appropriate assessment choices.
                  Provide students with specific, clear feedback as early and often as possible.
                  Encourage self-assessment and goal-setting among students.
                  Allow new evidence to replace old evidence in student assessments20

          17
             Proulx, Spencer-May and Westerberg. “Moving to Standards-Based Grading,” Op. cit., p. 32 – 33.
          18
             Ibid.
          19
             Ibid.
          20
             Adapted from: Moore, “Effective Grading Practices,” Op. cit., p. 57.

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          Similarly, the Sheridan County School District in Ranchester, Wyoming, suggests that
          teachers follow five key recommendations for developing or selecting assessments (Figure
          2.4).

          Figure 2.4: Sheridan County School District Recommendations for Developing or Selecting
                                  Assessments for Standards-Based Grading
                        RECOMMENDATION                                            DISTRICT NOTES

               The Assessment Must Align to Grade
                                                          While an assessment can cover more than one outcome,
                                                           teachers must be clear which parts of the assessment
                    Level or Course Outcomes
                                                           connect to which outcomes.

               The Assessment Needs to Measure
                                                          While group work and collaboration is important, teachers
                                                           should only evaluate work that they can clearly attribute
                     Individual Proficiency
                                                           to an individual student.
                                                          An assessment that evaluates a student’s ability to analyze
                                                           a topic is not valid if it only asks students to recall basic
          The Assessment Must Be Valid So That It
                                                           facts about a topic.
             Accurately Assesses the Intended
          Material in a Fair and Consistent Manner        A teacher can improve the validity of an assessment by
                                                           aligning these items to level 2 and including additional
                                                           assessment items in levels 3 and 4.
                                                          Teachers must make the assessment items align to the
           The Rubric Should Provide the Structure         levels of the rubric since they will use the assessment to
                     for the Assessment                    give students feedback on the rubric on a component-by-
                                                           component basis.
                                                          If the learning target asks students to analyze a topic, then
          The Depth of Knowledge Assessed Needs            the assessment should also be based on analysis tasks.
          to Match the Level of Instruction and the       This part of an assessment requires careful planning –
                 Corresponding Outcome                     using analysis-level verbs in the task does not guarantee
                                                           that students are doing analysis-level work.
                                                    21
          Source: Sheridan County School District

          Researchers also recommend building assessments around specific concepts or groups of
          concepts. This method allows students to see the breakdown of each concept in their tests
          instead of receiving an ambiguous percentage on a test without additional guidance. This
          approach also allows instructors to target instruction to help students, including gifted or
          struggling students, who may benefit from additional instruction in a specific area.22

          21
             Adapted from: “Standards-Based Learning Teacher Handbook 2014 – 2015.” Sheridan County School
               District #1. p. 8. http://www.sheridan.k12.wy.us/userfiles/159/my%20files/2014-
               15%20standards%20based%20learning%20teacher%20handbook.pdf?id=532321
          22
             Shippy, N., B. A. Washer, and B. Perrin. “Teaching with the End in Mind: The Role of Standards-Based
               Grading.”
              Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 10:2, 2013. p. 14 – 16. Accessed via: EBSCOhost.

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          DEVELOPING FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS
          In one report, standards-based grading advocates suggest that teachers use three forms of
          formative assessments during the course of instruction: probing discussions, unobtrusive
          assessments, and student-generated assessments. Figure 2.5 describes these methods.

                               Figure 2.5: Recommendations for Formative Assessments
                 ASSESSMENT                       DESCRIPTION                                EXAMPLE
                                    A teacher meets with a student and        If the teacher decides that the
                                      questions him or her about the            student has demonstrated
                                      measurement topic, making sure to         adequate understanding of level
                                      ask questions that involve 2.0 level      2.0 content and partial
                                      content, 3.0 level content, and 4.0       understanding of level 3.0 content,
                                      level content.                            the student receives a score of 2.5.

           Probing Discussions
                                    The teacher has the flexibility to        If the teacher determines that the
                                      continue asking questions until he or     student does not respond
                                      she is confident about a student’s        accurately to level 2.0 and 3.0
                                      level of proficiency.                     content but demonstrates partial
                                    At the end of the discussion, the          understanding of this information,
                                      teacher determines the student’s          the student receives a score of 1.0
                                      level of performance using the
                                      proficiency scale.
                                    A teacher develops a performance          A physical education teacher has
                                      scale and observes students – who         developed a four-point proficiency
                                      may not know they are being               scale for the overhand throw.
                                      assessed – and evaluates them.           Level 2.0 content involves the
                                                                                simpler aspects of this skill, level
                                                                                3.0 content is the target
                 Unobtrusive
                                                                                performance level, and level 4.0 is
                 Assessments
                                                                                an advanced level of performance.
                                                                               The teacher observes a student
                                                                                executing an overhand throw that
                                                                                meets the target level of
                                                                                performance. The teacher records
                                                                                a 3.0 score.
                                    The student approaches the teacher        A student who is currently at a level
                                      and proposes what he or she will do       3.0 in a science course proposes
           Student-Generated          to exhibit a specific level of            creating a graphic organizer
              Assessments             performance on the proficiency scale.     comparing plants and animals on
                                                                                specific traits and explains it to the
                                                                                class.
                                           23
          Source: Marzano and Heflebower

          23
               Adapted from: Marzano and Heflebower, “Grades That Show What Students Know,” Op. cit., p. 37 – 39.

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          DEVELOPING SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENTS
          In developing summative assessments, teachers should distinguish between teaching
          activities through which students learn and practice and summative assessments through
          which students demonstrate their knowledge. In concrete terms, the Jessamine School
          District in Kentucky advises teachers to:
                  Replace final exams with periodic summative assessments.
                  Require students to pass each summative assessment to complete a portion of the
                   course.
                  Require students to pass all summative assessments to earn credit for the course.
                  Require students to complete alternate credit opportunities when they do not pass
                   summative assessments.
                  Enter grades using the district’s standards-based alphabetic grading scale.
                  Revise the summative grade based on the most recent summative assessment
                   results, especially for standards that appear multiple times over the course.24

          DEVELOPING REASSESSMENTS
          In addition to developing assessments, teachers can also create reassessments to allow
          students to retake examinations to demonstrate improved mastery of a subject. While
          teachers can have students retake the same examination, Sheridan County School District
          has developed a five-step process for creating individualized reassessment plans (Figure
          2.6): 25

          24
             Adapted from: “EJHS Standards Based Grading Purpose.” Jessamine School District. p. 5.
              http://www.jessamine.k12.ky.us/docs/Grading.pdf
          25
             Figure adapted from: “Standards-Based Learning Teacher Handbook 2014 – 2015,” Op cit., p. 8

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                                    Figure 2.6: Process for Developing Reassessments
                           •The student gets a copy of the district’s reassessment agreement from the
                            instructor and completes the “Outcomes to Reassess” section to choose what
                  1         outcomes he or she will reassess and the levels of reassessment.

                           •The student completes the “Preparation Information” by picking a few
                            activities that would help him or her relearn the material.
                            •The student arranges a meeting with the teacher to discuss the agreement.
                             The teacher may require specific activities to prepare for the reassessment
                  2          such as completing missing assignments. Teachers must have evidence that
                             students have completed these assignments.

                           •The teacher and student will decide when, where, and how the learner will be
                            reassessed in the “Reassessment Information” section.
                  3

                           •Once the student has completed all of the relearning activities, he or she will
                            show the necessary evidence to the teacher and sign the “Reassessment
                  4         Approval” section of the agreement.

                           •The teacher can reassess the student according the conditions in the
                            “Reassessment Information” section.
                  5

          According to the district, the reassessment agreement supports student learning by
          ensuring that relearning takes place before reassessment. This process also clarifies the
          reassessment process for the student and the teacher and identifies how the teacher will
          reassess student performance to assuage student concerns about the exam.26

          ASSESSING LATE SUBMISSION OF STUDENT WORK
          Classroom policies must also address concerns related to late work and create incentives for
          students to finish incomplete assignments. Former teacher Jeanetta Miller encourages
          teachers to be flexible with deadlines and communicate with students about work
          completion on a regular basis, writing in the English Journal that,
                      The teacher can say, “I’d like to begin responding to your current work-in-progress
                      this week. Please get a draft to me as soon as you can. If I don’t have one within a
                      week, we should talk about your situation.”27

          26
               Ibid.
          27
                Miller, J. J. “A Better Grading System: Standards-Based, Student-Centered Assessment.” English
                 Journal,

© 2015 Hanover Research                                                                                          15
Hanover Research | October 2015

          Miller highlights several benefits associated with this approach. First, the approach allows
          teachers to avoid the process of setting a single due date for all students and developing a
          penalty to enforce the deadline that could distort student achievement. The process of
          logging student progress from the dialogues also makes it easy for teachers to determine
          which students need attention and “sends a clear message to students that the teacher
          values thinking and writing more than compliance.” Finally, by inevitably staggering the
          dates when students complete assignments, this method “prevents the teacher from feeling
          overwhelmed by five class sets of essays in one day.” 28

          Similarly, Sheridan County School District advises teachers to discuss the importance of
          practice with students who have not completed homework assignments and set goals for
          future work. Teachers can also require students to work on assignments during class or to
          come in during a flex period or after school. Finally, teachers should provide students with
          feedback about their work habits by regularly recording homework in the grade book and
          using the information to support student learning.29

          In Omaha Public Schools, the district’s teachers made practice and coursework “more
          purposeful” so that students felt the value of completing these assignments. Nevertheless,
          many of the district’s teachers initially opposed the idea of giving students multiple chances
          to master a learning target and submit late work without any penalties. As the article notes,
          “those [issues] continue to be hot topics of conversation, but teachers are starting to see
          the value of not punishing students for making mistakes while they are learning new
          skills.”30

          TRANSLATING STANDARDS-BASED EVALUATIONS INTO LETTER GRADES
          Many schools rely on a four-point scale with clear learning targets to align standards-based
          grades with grades awarded on a traditional grading scale. The Southern Regional Education
          Board recommends that teachers use the following guidelines when preparing for this
          process:
                  Link grading procedures to the intended learning goals.
                  Use criterion-referenced standards as reference points to distribute grades.
                  Limit the valued attributes included in grades to individual achievement.
                  Use representative samples of student performance rather than including all scores
                   in a final grade.
                  “Grade in pencil” and keep records so they can be updated easily.
                  “Crunch" numbers carefully – if at all – during this process.
                  Use quality assessment and properly recorded evidence of student achievement.

              103.1, 2013. p. 115. Accessed via: ProQuest.
          28
             Ibid.
          29
              “Standards-Based Learning Teacher Handbook 2014 – 2015,” Op. cit., p. 7.
          30
             Proulx, Spencer-May, and Westerberg. “Moving to Standards-Based Grading,” Op. cit., p. 32.

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Hanover Research | October 2015

                  Discuss and involve students in assessment, including grading throughout the
                   learning process.31

          In concrete terms, the process of translating grades from standards-based evaluations to
          standard letter grades generally revolves taking an evaluation scale with a 0 to 4.0 range
          and establishing corresponding letter grades. Figure 2.7 shows two approaches to
          translating this four-point scale into letter grades or GPA ranges.

               Figure 2.7: Grade Translation Methodologies for Four-Point Standards-Based Scales
                         MARZANO AND HEFLEBOWER                                  SHERIDAN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
          3.51 to 4.00 = A            2.17 to 2.33 = C                                  4 = 3.4 to 4.0 GPA
          3.00 to 3.50 = A-           2.00 to 2.16 = C-                                 3 = 2.5 to 3.3 GPA
          2.84 to 2.99 = B+           1.84 to 1.99 = D+                                 2 = 2.0 to 2.4 GPA
          2.67 to 2.83 = B            1.67 to 1.83 = D                                  1 = 1.5 to 1.9 GPA
          2.50 to 2.66 = B            1.50 to 1.66 = D-                                 0 = 0.0 to 1.4 GPA
          2.34 to 2.49 = C+           0.00 to 1.49 = F
                                                                            32
          Source: Marzano and Heflebower, Sheridan County School District

          One of the benefits of this methodology is the opportunity to develop assessment ranges
          based on different scales for measuring student progress. In the case of Marzano and
          Heflebower’s approach in Educational Leadership, instructors can use proficiency scales that
          track student mastery of a range of subjects on a 0 to 4.0 proficiency scale. Figure 2.8 shows
          an example of this scale. In this chart, each component quantifies student understanding
          along a continuum from lack of understanding – 0 – to mastery of a given subject – 4.0. A
          score of 3.0 contains the target instructional goal for a topic and serves as the scale’s
          fulcrum.

           Figure 2.8: Standards-Based Grading Proficiency Scale for a Middle School Math Student
             MEASUREMENT TOPIC          SCORE       .5      1.0       1.5        2.0      2.5      3.0     3.5     4.0
              Number Systems             2.5
            Mental Computation           1.5
          Ratio/Proportion/Percent       2.0
                   Patterns              3.5
                  Equations              2.5
                Data Analysis            1.0
                                           33
          Source: Marzano and Heflebower

          Figure 2.9 describes each point in the scale’s range. As Figure 2.9 shows, teachers can
          translate evaluations from this system over to traditional grades on a five-point scale.

          31
             Adapted from: Moore, “Effective Grading Practices,” Op. cit., p. 64 - 65.
          32
             [1] Marzano and Heflebower, “Grades That Show What Students Know,” Op. cit., p. 36 – 37.
             [2] “Standards-Based Learning Teacher Handbook 2014 – 2015.” Op. cit., p. 12.
          33
             Marzano and Heflebower, “Grades That Show What Students Know,” Op. cit., p. 36 – 37.

© 2015 Hanover Research                                                                                                  17
Hanover Research | October 2015

          Teachers can apply proficiency scales and this translation to other areas, including
          homework, cooperation, and personal responsibility.34

                                    Figure 2.9: Description of Proficiency Scale Scores
               SCORE                                                  DESCRIPTION
                4.0           More complex content.
                3.5           In addition to score 3.0 performance, partial success at score 4.0.
                3.0           Target objective.
                2.5           No major errors regarding score 2.0 content, and partial success at score 3.0 content.
                2.0           Simpler content.
                              Partial success at score 2.0 content, but major errors or omissions regarding score 3.0
                 1.5
                              content.
                 1.0          With help, partial success at score 2.0 content and score 3.0 content.
                  .5          With help, partial success at score 2.0 content, but not at score 3.0 content.
                 0.0          Even with help, no success.
                                           35
          Source: Marzano and Heflebower

          Sheridan County School District also uses a similar rubric for student evaluations:

                            Figure 2.10: Sheridan County School District Proficiency Rubric
               SCORE                                                  DESCRIPTION
                              The student demonstrates an in-depth understanding of the material by completing
                 4.0
                              advanced applications of the material.
                              In addition to a 3.0 score, the student demonstrates in-depth inferences and
                 3.5
                              applications with partial success.
                              The student demonstrates proficiency on the complex, targeted knowledge and skills
                 3.0
                              for the class.
                              In addition to a 2.0 score, the student demonstrates partial knowledge of 3.0
                 2.5
                              elements.
                              The student understands the foundational material, but is still working to master
                 2.0
                              application of the concepts and skills.
                              The student demonstrates understanding of all 2.0 elements with help and
                 1.5
                              independent understanding of some 2 elements.
                              The student is able to demonstrate an understanding of all of the foundational
                 1.0
                              material with support.
                 .5           The student demonstrates understanding of some 2.0 elements.
                              Even with assistance from the teacher, the student shows no understanding of the
                 0.0
                              material.
                                                    36
          Source: Sheridan County School District

          34
             Ibid., p. 37.
          35
             Ibid., p. 38.
          36
             Adapted from: “Standards-Based Learning Teacher Handbook 2014 – 2015,” Op cit., p. 8.

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Hanover Research | October 2015

          During the course of instruction, the district recommends that teachers use the following
          guidelines to assign scores to student progress:
                    A student’s complete body of work must show proficiency in a subject.
                    Evidence of proficiency can come from any part of a student’s work.
                    A student cannot receive a score higher than 0.5 until demonstrating proficiency in
                     all elements of the prior level with or without support.
                     o Once the student demonstrates this proficiency at a specific level, the amount of
                          support that the student needs determines whether they receive a 1.0, 1.5, or
                          2.0.
                    A student must demonstrate proficiency on the lower levels of the rubric prior to
                     receiving scores for proficiency at the higher levels.
                    Proficiency must be demonstrated on all of the elements on a rubric – it is never
                     acceptable to group an entire level of the rubric together when assigning a score.37

          Not all districts rely on a four-point scale, however. Jessamine School District uses a six-
          point letter grade scale that also easily translates to a traditional grading scale (Figure 2.11).
          The district requires teachers to determine the final grade by averaging the standard grades
          from each summative assessment.38

                           Figure 2.11: Jessamine School District Six-Point Letter Grade Scale
                STANDARDS-BASED         TRADITIONAL
                                                                              DESCRIPTION
                     GRADE            GRADE/GPA RANGE
                                                          The student demonstrates analysis and applications
                E – Exceptional          A: 98 – 100
                                                          that exceed expectations.
                                                          The student demonstrates analysis and applications
                  M – Mastery             A: 90 – 97      that allow them to function independently at a high
                                                          level.
                                                          The student demonstrates knowledge and skills that
                A – Approaching
                                          B: 80 – 89      allow them to function independently with few
                    Mastery
                                                          misconceptions.
                                                          The student demonstrates some misconceptions and
               P – Partial Mastery        C: 70 – 79
                                                          partial understanding of the knowledge and skills.
                                                          The student does not demonstrate understanding of
                N – No Mastery                F: 1 – 69
                                                          knowledge or skills.
                 I - Incomplete                    F: 0   Missing work.
                                              39
          Source: Jessamine School District

          37
             Adapted from: Ibid.
          38
             Ibid., p. 2.
          39
             “EJHS Standards Based Grading Purpose,” Op. cit., p. 1 – 2.

© 2015 Hanover Research                                                                                         19
Hanover Research | October 2015

          PROVIDING DIFFERENTIATED TEACHING IN STANDARDS-BASED
          CLASSROOMS
          Sheridan County School District recommends that teachers adopt flexible methods of
          evaluation, especially for students who struggle with a specific type of assessment:
                   If a student has trouble with traditional pencil-and-paper assessments, you could
                   assess that student’s knowledge through a verbal assessment or use evidence from
                   class discussions, performance on assigned tasks or other quick, informal
                   assessments to determine the student’s level of proficiency. If a student proposes
                   an alternative way to demonstrate advanced, in-depth understanding of an
                   outcome, the teacher should make sure the task is sufficiently rigorous and aligns to
                   the outcome it is intended to measure, then assess the student’s work
                   appropriately.40

          As a part of this approach, teachers may also use meetings to provide students with
          individualized feedback. As Jeanetta Miller notes, “students need timely feedback on work
          in progress that salutes original ideas, solid research, and effective use of skills as well as
          offering suggestions for improvement.” 41 Teachers can also ask students to provide
          information about the current status of a project for the teacher.42

          Finally, for students with individual education or 504 plans, Jessamine School District
          offers specific accommodations, including changes in the quantity of work, time allotted,
          presentation format, and type of evidence collected. While these adjustments should
          address the accommodations in these plans, the district states that the changes should not
          reduce learning expectations, adjust content, or reduce the rigor of the material to be
          mastered, or change the grade calculation. The adjustments also should not alter test
          expectations, the difficulty level, or the constructs or content being measured.43

          PROMOTING STAKEHOLDER BUY-IN AND ENGAGEMENT
          In transitioning to a new grading framework, districts must also develop a plan for gaining
          teacher, student, and parent buy-in. Among the school districts in this study, Omaha Public
          Schools uses several key practices to improve instructor buy-in during the process of
          transitioning from traditional grading systems to standards-based grading. These practices
          include:
                  Hiring outside consultants to train all teachers involved in the early stages of the
                   transition.
                  Training began with explaining the system, reasons for moving to standards-based
                   education, the research and philosophy behind the concept, and specifics about
                   standards-based education in practice.

          40
             “Standards-Based Learning Teacher Handbook 2014 – 2015,” Op. cit., p. 11.
          41
             Miller, “A Better Grading System,” Op cit., p. 114 – 115.
          42
             Ibid.
          43
             “EJHS Standards Based Grading Purpose,” Op. cit., p. 4.

© 2015 Hanover Research                                                                                     20
Hanover Research | October 2015

                  As training sessions progressed, the focus shifted to the actual components of the
                   implementation process.44

          The district also notes that providing teachers and staff with initial training before
          implementation of the system and follow-up training sessions after the first grading period
          would have improved the district’s implementation of this system.45

          To earn student buy-in, researchers, experts, and school districts recommend that teachers
          set learning expectations early, engage them in the evaluation process, and meet with them
          and provide feedback regularly to improve student engagement. Sheridan County School
          District recommends that teachers set learning expectations and targets at the very
          beginning of the course to eliminate the misconception that “only the tests count” in their
          evaluation. The district also suggests that teachers:
                  Prepare purposeful tasks that connect to the outcome and use consequences that
                   focus on the students’ behavior if they do not complete the work.
                  Remind students that the evaluations will assess every component of their work
                   such as class discussions and homework to convey the value of these assignments.46

          The district also tells teachers that students will not do their work if their instructors give
          them the perception that they will not enforce these principles and their assignments are
          not important to their final evaluation.47

          In addition, teachers may set up appointments with students toward the end of the first
          marking period to discuss their progress and set new goals. In particular, the meeting should
          focus on major projects and recent work instead of small activities and work done early in
          the semester. Teachers and students can also agree not to assess standards for which
          students did not have time to demonstrate progress.48

          Finally, districts may gain parent buy-in by providing written explanations of the new
          grading system early in the transition period. Figure 2.12 shows a sample written
          explanation of standards-based grading prepared and distributed by Jeanetta Miller.

          44
             Adapted from: Proulx, Spencer-May, and Westerberg. “Moving to Standards-Based Grading,” Op. cit., p.
          33 – 34.
          45
             Ibid.
          46
             “Standards-Based Learning Teacher Handbook 2014 – 2015,” Op. cit., p. 7.
          47
             Ibid.
          48
             Miller, “A Better Grading System: Standards-Based, Student-Centered Assessment,” Op. cit., p. 115 –
               117.

© 2015 Hanover Research                                                                                             21
Hanover Research | October 2015

                                Figure 2.12: Example of Explanation of Grading System for Parents
                                                 EXPLANATION OF GRADING SYSTEM
          Students earn points for engagement in the process of learning and for progress toward mastery of
          standards as demonstrated by the student’s written and spoken performance and as documented by the
          student’s log and portfolio. In addition, each marking period, there will be one or two reading exams that
          combine an essay prompt with objective questions about texts, literary terms, and conventions of print.
          Each marking period will conclude with a student-teacher conference based on log, portfolio, exam, and a
          reflective essay called State of the Student. Students are expected to be active participants in the
          evaluation process. Students earn points for progress toward mastery of each standard:
                10 points = Documented mastery
                9 points = Major documented progress
                8 points = Documented progress
                7 points = Documented attempt

          Each student’s progress toward mastery of standards is then converted into a conventional grade
          percentage derived
          from the number of points earned out of the total possible:
          Performance Standards                                150 possible points (10 each for 15 standards)
          Collaboration Standards                              80 possible points (10 each for 8 standards)
          Reading Exams                                        50 to 100 possible points
          State of the Student                                 50 possible points
          Total                                                330 to 380 possible points
                           49
          Source: Miller

          After distributing this document, Miller received questions from parents. In order to
          assuage their concerns, Miller thanked them for their interest, listened carefully, and
          provided additional details about the system. “Without exception,” she writes, “the
          response [from parents] was something along the lines of ‘makes sense.’”50 Omaha Public
          Schools distributed similar documents in school newsletters and on district web pages.51

          Education experts also recommend that districts provide parents with information about
          the grading system as early as possible. In addition to discussing the system with parents
          and students the year before implementation, districts should address this issue in back-to-
          school sessions, parent-teacher association meetings, or open houses during the year of
          implementation.52

          Districts can also host focus groups for parents, teachers, and students to determine ways
          to improve descriptions of the new grading system, clear up misconceptions, and develop
          buy-in strategies for the adoption of this system. This strategy is especially effective for
          honors students and their parents who are concerned that the process may affect GPAs and
          potential scholarship opportunities. Incorporating unions and their leaders at the beginning

          49
             Ibid., p. 114.
          50
             Ibid., p. 113.
          51
             Proulx, Spencer-May and Westerberg. “Moving to Standards-Based Grading,” Op. cit., p. 33.
          52
             Ibid., p. 33 – 34.

© 2015 Hanover Research                                                                                                22
Hanover Research | October 2015

          stages of the adoption the process can also strengthen buy-in from teachers, students, and
          parents.53

          53
               Ibid.

© 2015 Hanover Research                                                                                23
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